This trail is in the Bill Williams Mountain Watershed. The area is often ordered closed from June until enough moisture is present to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires. Best check the Kaibab Forest for closures in June and July.
Memorial Day. To the east the horizon is glowing from the early morning sunrise slowly coming, changing the mood of a new day already four and a half hours old. Nursing my coffee, hot, black; driving my jeep northbound on 89 toward Ashfork, the hardest decision I was faced with this day was how will I get to Bill Williams Mountain? Should I drive up to Ashfork, hook a right onto I-40, and drive into Williams. The pleasant little town at the base of Bill Williams Mountain and claims the title as the gateway to the Grand Canyon. Or should I do something different, possibly add a few minutes to my road trip by making a right turn at Drake's turn-off just pass Hell Canyon Bridge?
What the heck! I turned off at Drake and enjoyed the pleasant back road drive up to Bill Willaims Mountain and Benham's trailhead. The sun was up and it was more than likely already hot in Phoenix when I arrived at the trailhead around six. However, at 7265 feet above sea level, I enjoyed the cool morning air as I prepared for my journey this day. Pulled my Teva's off and put on my Hi Tech's, tightening up my day pack, making sure I have my extra pair of soxs hanging off one of the loops, packing my wallet in the pack, and securing my vehicle. Rituals. Gotta do 'em.
Satisfied I was ready to go, I launched through the gate, and suddenly stopped when I caught movement! A deer! Grazing! I spotted other movements through the shadows of the pine trees, at least a dozen deer. A couple of them already alerted by my movements and sounds were studying me, unsure of what to do at first, the others were grazing. I didn't want to move, nor did I want to reach for my camera afraid any movement on my part would have them cantering off through the trees leaving me in their dust. So I watch them for a few minutes and some studied me, until finally tired of my presence, they bounded off into the forest. I started my hike in earnest.
The sounds of the forest were pleasant. Yet in the distance, surprisingly, I could hear the low drumming of heavy traffic on I-40. A black ribbon artery, one of many in our state and nation, carrying the heavy commerce of capitalism, tourists in a rush to get where they are going, and maybe, a few locals. Necessary I know, but a slight annoyance nonetheless. Although, at one point I heard a train whistle, sounding like a metal beast calling out forlornly, for what I have no idea.
The trail is easy to follow and begins its climb gradually as it works its way up Bill Williams Mountain. Tall ponderosa pines and oak provide pleasant shade. Although evident, and unlike the Prescott National Forest, there are few trees killed by the bark beetle. Thus far. One can only hope and pray the drought will end, sparing this forest from the further ravaging of this little nasty insect.
After an hour and a half, give or take, the trail begins to steepen and there are a few switchbacks. Several times I crossed the service road going up to the top as well. From time to time, the trees thin a bit allowing me a grand view to the south and from which I have come earlier on my way here.
I come to the first group of aspens. It was time to take a break and enjoy natures orchestra. Pulling my pack off, I sat down and laid back to listen. The slight breeze blowing, caressing the pines, the aspen leaves flittering, softly singing the tunes of life, joy, and solitude. I enjoyed the song. I could have stayed here all day. But alas, I knew my goal was the top and I could not stay here forever.
The trail terminated on the service road leading to the top. Following it the remaining half mile, I finally reached the top. Crowded. Not with folks. But with a variety of antennas, large ones, crowding in on each other. The look-out tower is dwarf to these latter 20th-century giants. I shouldn't have been surprised, I have seen them from I-40, I have seen them driving through Williams many times. Nevertheless, I felt overwhelmingly crowded by these giant steel towers with their support buildings.
I did not stay long, just enough to eat some snacks and study the view to the south. Then I left and took a leisure stroll back down to the trailhead.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
Kaibab FS Details
This trail starts in ponderosa pine and oak thickets, and climbs into the mixed conifer forest on Bill Williams Mountain. At several places along the trail the hiker has a good view of the forest below and the distant peaks. Although there is no water in the area, cool temperatures make this an enjoyable trail to hike in the summer.
Trail Layout: This is a short day hike, with moderately difficult slopes going up the mountain, and easy down-grades coming back to the trailhead. If arrangements have been made for some one to meet the hikers at the top of Bill Williams Mountain, the trail ends there at 9256' (2821M). By leaving a vehicle at the Bill Williams Mountain trailhead, and also at the start of Benham Trail, the day-hikers can go up one trail and down the other for a total hike of about 8.5 miles. It is also possible to connect with the Bixler Saddle Trail #72 to make a longer hike.
Length: 4.5 miles one-way
Hiking Time: About 5 to 6 hours round trip.
Recommended Season: Late spring to early fall.
Use Restrictions: No motorized vehicles.
Trailhead Location: Trailhead at 7265 feet. An accessible vault toilet, horsetrailer parking and corral are available at the trailhead, off CR 73.
USGS Map(s): Bill Williams Mountain